Search

this site depaul.edu
Search for People / Departments

DePaul Shortcuts

DePaul Teaching & Learning Blogs

DePaul Teaching Commons on Facebook twitter_logo youtube_logo

Home Videos on Teaching DePaul Faculty Oral HistoriesEileen Seifert
DePaul Faculty Oral Histories: Eileen Seifert

Browse the videos below to hear Eileen Seifert, Associate Director of First-Year Writing in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse (LAS), offer advice to other teachers, discuss teaching in historic times, and reflect on what connects her to DePaul.


What Connects Me to DePaul: Watching Students Discover Themselves

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

Watching students discover themselves is a multi-level thing. You can see people grow into a sense of confidence, into a sense of mission. You can see people change.

I remember a student coming back from a trip abroad, and saying that as she had approached the city of Paris, she had a whole new sense of herself, and that she would always carry that inside of her. Well, I had written one of her recommendations for study abroad, and that was a good feeling. I've seen students who were eighteen-year-old slackers suddenly find something they were interested in and good at. That's a huge step forward. I've seen people work through periods of tremendous difficulty and discouragement, and make it, finding out things about themselves, about what they were good at. I think that's really important to find out what you like and what you're good at.




What Connects Me to DePaul: Chicago as an Inspiration

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

Chicago is an inspiring place to live, and I think never more so than right now. My early contacts with Chicago were not as positive as a student. I was here in 1968 when things got cracking in Grant Park.

I was so scared that I went back to Wisconsin, because it didn't look good to me, and I am really afraid of getting hit over the head and tear gassed. I'm not a hero in that respect. I had friends who were. So I saw Chicago as kind of a menacing place, originally. When I moved here in 1973, the arts were what drew me very much, and I still feel that this is a wonderful place, because people are creating things that aren't just product, you know. It seems like every storefront, everybody's basement, there's a play being produced, and people are real self starters, you know. They're not waiting to be discovered. They're out doing things, and I think that that creative atmosphere . . . and you really just never know who's sitting next to you on the L and what they do, and because they have a day job doesn't mean they're also not composing music, or doing mural work, or something like that. I think that's great. I also think that it's a story of a lot of people succeeding. I mean, I've had students who were refugees from Cambodia, whose families were sleeping eleven people to a room, and yet they were getting college degrees, and interning with major firms, and their lives were going to completely change. And that's really, it's amazing to me what people endure and what they, as Faulkner says, “prevail over.” And I think the city has lots of lessons. I mean, it has sad lessons, of course, but it also has lessons of people taking chances, and making it.




What Connects Me to DePaul: Vincentain Personalism

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

I've thought a lot about St. Vincent DePaul, partly because my high school was taught by Daughters of Charity, who were Elizabeth Seton's twist on Saint Vincent's rules. So, really, from a very early age I heard about St. Louise and Vincent.

And I think it's easy to use Vincentian personalism when it's convenient, and to forget about it when it's not institutionally. That does concern me, but I think the idea that each person is really important is true. I believe that, and I think the University tries to hold to that, also that we all have an obligation to people who are poor and who are struggling, and that we have an obligation to inform our classes with that sense of things. When I first came to DePaul, the AIDS epidemic was in crisis, and I think DePaul was coming to terms with publically acknowledging how important the gay community at DePaul is. And I felt that it was important for me, as a straight woman, you know, the typical mom with kids, and all that, to say that this is my community, too, that we're all connected, and to bring some of these issues into the classroom, not in a kind of preachy, in your face way, but just to make sure that when I talked about families, or when I talked about relationships, that I included and made some space for a whole spectrum of people.




What Connects Me to DePaul: Questioning “We”

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

I think one of the things that I've challenged myself on is when you say, “Well, we, we think this,” or “We, the Judeo-Christian tradition, you know, have these values.” And I look out at the class and I think, “Okay, let's say who's 'we' here?”

They're not all from a Judeo-Christian background. “We,” what does that mean? “We” are a privileged group of people, when I know I have students who are living in housing projects, when I have students who have done homework under the table in grade school, because there were bullets shooting in the courtyard at their buildings, but I also have students whose families have opened dot com businesses, and own cell phone companies. So that “we” is a very inclusive we, and that is a real challenge to imagine that “we” and to make it a classroom community.




If I Knew Then, What I Know Now: The Best Advice

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

The best advice that I ever got about teaching came long before DePaul, when I was a graduate student teaching in my first year.

We got no training, nothing. They just told us when to show up, didn't tell us even a short list of books or give us the course outline. It was just, “Get in there and you can do it.” It was terrifying, and no one gave us any feedback. But one of the young assistant professors volunteered to visit my class, because I really wanted feedback. Her name was Barbara Nolan. She was a Medievalist. She died not too long ago. She became very prominent in her field. But she said, “I'm watching you teach.” And she said, “Sometimes you're talking like a person, and then sometimes you start talking like a teacher.” And she said, “It's a lot better when you talk like a person.” That's the advice I would give is it's yourself in a different role, maybe, but it's still you, and teaching is a relationship. It should be an honest one.




If I Knew Then, What I Know Now: Teaching and Change

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

Teaching does evolve over time. I mean, there are different streams that come into that. Disciplines change and technology changes.

I mean, the advent of computers, oh, my gosh. That has transformed teaching in so many, and I think mostly good, ways. Who would ever want to go back to Eaton’s Corrasable Bond? Nobody. The chances to represent yourself multimodally are, I think, fascinating and wonderful, so sometimes it's not things within yourself that change teaching, but from without. You see different schools of thought on the teaching of writing that come and go, and then sometimes come again. But the existence of a department like the one I'm in, is something that just didn't really happen. So, yes, I mean, my discipline has hugely influenced me. And in terms of “have I become wiser?” or something like that, no. At this point in my life, I am more filled with questions and less sure of myself than I've ever been about what works and what doesn't.




Teaching in Historic Times: 9/11

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

The historical events that have happened since '85 . . . golly, I guess 9/11 sticks out, because it was right at the beginning of our Fall Quarter when New York was hit. I had New Yorkers in my class at the time.

I had quite a few students whose families were involved with either firefighting or police work in various places. My own daughter had been regularly traveling to the World Trade Center as part of her job and actually worked in Windows on the World. So at that point, as we realized what was happening, I realized a lot of the people she worked with were dead, and she had told me about them. And so, you know, there was this terrible day when we didn't know what was happening, whether we would . . . whether Chicago . . . whether this was going to be a hit across the country, whether Chicago was going to be a target. And I think we all felt, no matter whether we were teachers or students or staff members, kind of united in horror and in wondering how to respond. I can remember being on the Clark Street L platform, and a man just turned to me, and he threw his hands out, and shook his head, and it was like, “What do you say? What do you do? What do you feel?” Well, when you teach writing, it was an interesting atmosphere, hard to negotiate, hard to know whether to say, “Okay, we won't let them beat us. We'll go on with our course,” or whether we should just stop and talk a little bit. So that kind of moment I think where the whole campus had this unifying experience, was tremendously sad, but there was a sense that we could pull together that made a big difference, I think.




Teaching in Historic Times: Empowering Students Through Language

Featured Faculty Member: Eileen Seifert of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (LAS).
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

When outside events impinge, I think all teachers think about we have a forum. We have a moment where people are together. What do we do with it?

I don't make my classes a forum for discussing current events in a big way, no matter how important they are, because I feel like what we’re doing in the class is tremendously important, and I want to move forward with that. But I do talk to students, probably too much in their view, with what a wonderful thing it is to have language and to be able to use language for purposes. I always go back to the Roman rhetor Quintilian, who said that “The ideal rhetor is a good” . . . well, he said “good man,” but I say ”good person speaking well.“ And I think this idea that you have power, and you have choices about how to use it, and an obligation to develop your power, is really important. So I'm teaching 104 right now, which is the course where we write a research paper and study argumentation, and my mantra is, “This is a means to power. You have power. You're going to make choices. You will be called on in some way. Be ready.” And that's my job, I think, that whatever people care about, and I know they may have different values from my own, that they would be ready when they're called on, and I think in life everyone is called on in some way.